In August 2018, I visited the Peace Region in northeastern B.C. with two friends and talked to long-time residents fighting against the controversial Site C dam project. These included Yvonne Tupper from Saulteau First Nations, farmers Arlene and Ken Boon, and horse breeder Esther Pedersen.
“I want all this industry to slow down and let the land heal. Then the people can heal and know they matter,” said Yvonne Tupper.
I also spoke with West Moberly chief Roland Willson, dropped in on the court case in Vancouver to hear B.C. Hydro’s arguments and finally, visited the dam site itself.
Everybody loves a good storyteller and I’m no exception.
Last week, I listened to some of the live streaming of the Enbridge hearings from Kitimaat, the First Nations village a few clicks outside the company town of Kitimat in northwest B.C.
It was the tail end of the first day and the Haisla’s Chief Councillor, Ellis Ross, was telling how Kitimaat was founded and the stories of betrayal over the years.
Now I’ve been to nearby Kitimat, and my memories are of a blue-collar town dominated by the blazing hot furnaces inside Alcan (now Rio Tinto Alcan); the Eurocan Pulp and Paper mill spewing God knows what (now closed); and touring around Methanex (also closed). To be honest, I never even saw the native Indian village, on the east side of the Douglas Channel.
I’ve always known Kitimat and nearby Prince Rupert as shippers of the “dangerous and the dirty”. If Enbridge has its way, shipping bitumen and condensate through the long fiords embracing the Northwest Coast will continue that tradition, managing to combine the worst of both worlds: the dangerous (for the environment) and the dirty (heavy oil).
But Chief Ellis Ross and other members of the Haisla Nation took us back eloquently to the time before the “dangerous and the dirty”, before pollution wiped out the eulachon runs and when whales chased herring all the way up the Douglas Channel.